Elem. – Pony Girls (Set 2) Series Fiction

Mullarkey, Lisa. Pony Girls (Set 2). Abdo Publishing, 2020. 978-1-532-13646-7. $20.95 ea. $83.80 set of 4. Grades 2-5.

Charlie. 978-1-532-13646-7.
Gracie. 978-1-532 13647-4.
Paisley. 978-1-532-13648-1.
Zoey. 978-1-532-13649-8.

Charlie loves being a camper at Storm Cliff Stables, but some things just make her belly swishy swashy. She wants to be able to go on a full trail ride and jump the vaults, but she just can’t seem to do it without her belly causing troubles and her heart going thump, thump, thump. Thankfully her friends, Aunt Jane, her mom, and Dr. Bell have helped her with different strategies to keep her nerves away. She will become a full Warrior and be able to achieve her goals, if she keeps visualizing them and doing her very best!

THOUGHTS: The ability in this book to discuss anxiety issues and panic attacks is absolutely phenomenal. The coping strategies listed in here are great strategies that readers can use to help keep nerves at bay and help reduce anxiety. A great choice for a young reader who is interested in horses or animals and may be dealing with their own fears and anxieties.

Realistic Fiction         Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

YA – Ready to Fall; Thunderhead

Pixley, Marcella. Ready to Fall.  Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2017. 9780374303587. $17.99. 360 p. Gr. 8 and up.

After the death of his beloved mother, 16-year-old Max Friedman struggles with his spiraling depression and an unhealthy obsession with an imaginary brain tumor.  Withdrawing from his grieving father and completely unable to cope at his public school, he is given the opportunity to switch to a progressive private high school.  The school matches new students with a student fellow and a faculty mentor, and so Max meets Felicia, the pink-haired free spirit who goes by the name Fish and the demanding professor Gates. The change is a lifeline for Max.  With the help of his new circle of creative friends, some inspiring teachers and his supportive father and grandmother, Max hopes to lift the heavy veil of his depression and make a fresh start. Many of the characters in the book are intriguing;  well-developed and flawed or struggling in some way and Max’s relationships with all of them ring true. The writing is emotionally charged and Max’s grief is palpable. Pixley peppers the pages with scenes from Kafka’s Metamorphosis and Shakespeare’s Hamlet, writings that mirror Max’s pain and depression, but also help him come to terms with his own struggles. THOUGHTS: Could be used as a contemporary companion piece for classes studying either of these classic works.

Realistic Fiction       Nancy Summers, Abington School District


Shusterman, Neal. Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe Book 2).  Simon and Schuster, 2017. $18.99. 504 p. 9781442472457. Gr. 7 and up.

Thunderhead, the second novel in the Arc of a Scythe trilogy, is a compelling sequel to the boldly original Scythe. The series is set in a dystopian future in which the Thunderhead, an omniscient, advanced AI system, has solved most of humanity’s problems including war and mortality.  The Scythdom was created to maintain a sustainable population and scythes are the individuals selected and trained to be the benevolent guardians of death, gleaning people as necessary to prevent overpopulation.  But now within the Scythdom, the Old Guard and the New Order factions are at war with each other. Cintra, as Scythe Anastasia, is revered as an inspiring Junior Scythe, respected for her adherence to the Old Guard principles.  Rowan, who has been denied his initiation, has assumed the mantle of Scythe Lucifer, a vigilante out to bring justice to the New Order scythes who relish their power and the perks of their positions. The Thunderhead itself features as a narrator and provides us with glimpses into its consciousness, objectives, and motivations as the defacto government head and deity. As the two sides of the Scythedom fight for control,  the Thunderhead is forbidden from intervening in their struggle and is unable to resolve the battle between the noblest and basest instincts of individual human beings. THOUGHTS: Yet another winning series from Shusterman, the master storyteller; readers will be eagerly awaiting the final book in this trilogy. A recommended purchase for all YA collections.

Science Fiction, Dystopian     Nancy Summers, Abington School District

MS – Girls Who Code; The Silver Mask

Saujani, Reshma.  Girls Who Code. Viking, 2017. 9780425287538. $17.99. 168 p. Gr. 5-8.

Written by the founder of the Girls Who Code foundation and website, an organization created to bridge the gender gap in technology, Reshma  Saujani encourages girls to take up code writing as a key for their own personal needs and entertainment but most especially as a path for their future careers.  Conversational in tone  and interspersed with original artwork, this informational guide explains in clear and simple language the vocabulary and elements  of coding, provides a brief history of computer developments, presents a Q and A with girls who participate in Girls Who Code activities and profiles the work and achievements of real women working in today’s tech fields. Includes glossary and index. Thoughts: Though aimed at a middle-grade audience, it is recommended for elementary, middle and high schools, a perfect title to encourage girls of all ages to explore tech as a hobby or an academic pursuit.  More resources available at GirlsWhoCode.com for librarians or teachers who may be interested in starting a girls’ coding club at their schools.

005.1 Computer Science           Nancy Summers, Abington School District


Black, Holly and Cassandra Clare. The Silver Mask (Magisterium Bk. 4). Scholastic Press, 2017.  978-0-545-52236-6 232p. $17.99.  Gr. 5 and up.

Another solid book in the fast-moving Magisterium series, this books starts after Call has spent six months in prison, framed for a crime he did not commit. Even in prison, there are choices that Call has to make. Call is constantly asking himself, “Am I evil?” “If I do this, is it good or bad?”  There is a quick, suspenseful prison break that moves the story forward.  The action never stops, except for a few moments of possible romance.  THOUGHTS:   This series is great for middle-grade readers of fantasy.  It may satisfy Percy Jackson fans as well as Harry Potter fans.  Readers will come away pondering the demarcation between good and evil and wondering if there is a grey area.  

Fantasy     Toni Vahlsing, Abington Friends School

Upper Elem/MS – Pottymouth & Stoopid; Beach Party Surf Monkey; Genevieve’s War; Ban this Book

Patterson, James and Chris Grabenstein. Pottymouth and Stoopid. Little, Brown and Company, 2017. 978-0-316-34963-5. $13.99. 305 p. Gr. 3-6.

Michael and David have been best friends since preschool. Both have corrosive nicknames bestowed on them by cruel peers and thoughtless teachers. David was tagged as Stoopid in preschool; Michael, due to his penchant for inventing outrageous words, was dubbed Pottymouth by a substitute teacher in third grade. Now the two boys, along with their friend Anna, suffer through school, tormented by their classmates and scorned by teachers for their over-the-top imagination and restlessness. But everything changes when a new TV show airs, based on the antics of the boys and their friends. Even though the show is wildly popular, it only aggravates tensions at school, until David learns his “ex-dad” is behind the show. Eventually, the boys achieve fame for all nerds and see the bullies cut down. Both boys come from challenging home lives; Michael is in foster care, and it is eventually revealed they both test as geniuses, causing trouble because they are bored in school. Teachers and administrators are uniformly portrayed as incompetent at best, cruel at worst. But students will love the potty humor and sweet revenge of the story. THOUGHTS: Patterson and Grabenstein know how to write to their audience.  While many parts of the book made me cringe, young readers will relate and thoroughly enjoy the book.  A great step up for Captain Underpants fans.

Realistic Fiction; Humor     Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Grabenstein, Chris. Beach Party Surf Monkey. Random House, 2017. 978-0-553-53610-2. $13.99. 301 p. Gr. 3-6.

Entertainer extraordinaire and part-time detective P.T. Wilkie is back in this second entry to Chris Grabenstein’s Welcome to Wonderland series. P.T. and his friend Gloria are on a mission to have a new beach party revival movie filmed at his family’s St. Pete Beach, Florida, motel. The pair prove successful, but that’s when the real problems start. The teen pop idol star can’t act and has no chemistry with his Oscar-winning female costar. Plus, someone is out to sabotage the movie. Could it be the owner of the mega-hotel next store who is pressuring P.T.’s mom to sell the Wonderland Motel? P.T. and Gloria have their hands full trying to keep the movie on schedule, determine the culprit behind the dirty deeds, and control You-Tube star Kevin the Monkey. Can the creative pair of friends save the movie and the motel?  THOUGHTS: A delightfully fun read from funny guy Grabenstein. Hijinks and mayhem abound, and will keep students entertained to the last page.

Realistic Fiction, Mystery     Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Giff, Patricia Reilly. Genevieve’s War. Holiday House, 2017. 978-0-8234-3800-6. $16.95. 222p. Gr. 4-8.

Genevieve and her brother, Andre, were spending the summer of 1939 with their Alsatian grandmother at her farm in France near the German border. Andre leaves early to return home to the States, but when it is time for Genevieve to leave, she surprises herself by impulsively deciding to stay. Genevieve was not particularly drawn to her dour grandmother, but she is concerned for the elderly woman on the eve of the German invasion. The two become dependent on each other as German troops establish themselves in the town and a German officer billets himself at the farmhouse. As time passes, Genevieve and her grandmother grow close as they attempt to eke out an existence in the ravaged village, and Genevieve learns about the father she never knew. The stakes become even higher when Genevieve hides an injured member of the resistance in their attic. THOUGHTS : A beautifully crafted, suspenseful story that immerses the reader in daily life in wartime France deftly conveying the suspicion that takes over the community as no one knows who to trust.

Historical Fiction     Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Gratz, Alan. Ban This Book. Tom Doherty, 2017. 978-0-7653-8556-7. $15.99. 243 p. Gr. 3-6.

Quiet fourth grader Amy Anne is appalled to learn her favorite book, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, has been banned from her school library. A classmate’s mother felt the book promoted lying, stealing, and running away from home, and the school board vindicated her claim. Amy Anne goes to the board meeting but is too shy to speak up. Soon additional books disappear from the library. Starting a one-girl protest, she begins to read the banned books, then shares them with her classmates. Soon, the Banned Book Locker Library is born with the illicit books quietly passed around the school. Unfortunately, when the library is discovered, the school librarian is fired. The students come up with an ingenious plan to fight back and show the parent, as well as the school board, the innate folly of banning books. THOUGHTS: All librarians should treat themselves to this book (it’s dedicated to librarians) with Gratz’s knowledgeable treatment of the school book banning issue. For students, it’s a great introduction to the topic. The book contains a Reading and Activity Guide in the back, making it great for a classroom read-aloud or lit circle.

Realistic Fiction     Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

New Upper Elem/MS – Knife’s Edge; Quicksand Pond; Hello Universe; The Ethan I Was Before

Larson, Hope. Knife’s Edge (Four Points series). Farrar Straus Giroux, 2017. 978-0-374-30044-9. 224 p. $19.99. Gr. 4-8.

My students and I have been eagerly awaiting the second installment in the Four Points series, and it’s finally here! The first book in the series, Compass South, finds twins Cleo and Alex Dodge searching for their lost father as they try to survive as street orphans in 1860. At the end of the first adventure, they’re reunited with their father and realize that their family heirlooms, a knife and compass, create a treasure map. In Knife’s Edge, Cleo and Alex learn that their birth parents were both pirates and the treasure they seek is a pirate’s bounty. They reluctantly agree to help old friend/nemesis Luther escape pirate Felix Worley who is hunting the twins and their treasure. Cleo and Alex both work to find their place aboard the Almira with wise captain Tarboro as they sail to find the treasure and meet many dangers along the way. Like the first book, Knife’s Edge takes readers on a trip to many distant shores, including Honolulu, HI, and the Marshall Islands. The twins and Tarboro’s crew eventually meet up with Worley and his gang in a tropical jungle where they battle it out for treasure rights. The second book in the series ends with a surprise appearance on the last page, foreshadowing the twins’ next adventure. Rebecca Mock’s illustrations and graphic style are easy to follow, brilliantly colored, and full of drama. THOUGHTS: Larson and Mock’s collaborations combine edge-of-your-seat action, family love and history, and lots of adventure. A winner.

Graphic novel, Action/Adventure               Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin School District


Lisle, Janet Taylor. Quicksand Pond.  Atheneum, 2017.  978-1-4814-7222-7.  240 p.  $16.99  Gr. 4-8.

Jessie Kettel is spending the summer with her family in Rhode Island, where their promised waterfront beach house turns out to be a ramshackle cottage on an overgrown pond. Jessie doesn’t mind, especially when she finds a raft, and even better, a friend, Terri, who helps her fix it up. Terri’s father is an alcoholic and abusive, and she often spends nights alone in the woods to avoid his temper, but she wants Jessie’s friendship not her pity. Terri entertains Jessie with local tales about children swallowed up by the quicksand and a long-ago double murder that led to the wrongful conviction of her own grandfather. The girls develop a close bond, but the relationship starts deteriorating when Jessie hears rumors that Terri may be involved in something illegal. At first, Jessie stands up for her friend, but eventually, frightened she is getting in over her head, she pulls away. Jessie struggles to hold on to what she feels to be right, even as those around her make judgments based on false assumptions that stem from class and social prejudices. Woven into the girls’ stories is the story of an old woman who is the only witness of the long-forgotten murders. THOUGHTS: This is a gripping novel, with a sensitive, nuanced portrayal of issues relating to classism, as well as the flaws in our criminal justice system. The characters, including many of the secondary characters, are well-developed and memorably distinct.  Not to be missed.

Realistic Fiction           Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD


Kelly, Erin Entrada. Hello, Universe.  Greenwillow, 2017. 978-0-06-241415-1. 313 p.  $16.99  Gr. 4-7.

Hello, Universe is written from the point-of-view of four middle school students whose stories converge after one of them is trapped at the bottom of the well.  Painfully shy Virgil Salinas feels like an outsider even in his own family.  However, he has a special relationship with his Filipino grandmother, who shares hilariously macabre folk stories that later give him strength while he hopes and waits for rescue. Kaori Tanaka is a third-generation Japanese-American with plenty of bravado who has started a business as a psychic for kids (so far, Virgil is her only customer).  Virgil has a secret crush on a deaf girl, Valencia Somerset, who is outgoing and well-adjusted, but lonely after being abandoned by her best friend.  Chet Bullens, the school bully, has a father who belittles him and teaches him that winning at any cost is what is important; it is Chet’s cruelty that indirectly sends Virgil plummeting down the well.  Kaori insists that Virgil’s rescue and meet-up with Valencia have been engineered by the universe, and ultimately, it is hard for either Virgil or Valencia to argue with her.  THOUGHTS:  This is a beautifully written book with unique, diverse characters. Whether or not readers agree with Kaori about the role of fate, they will enjoy seeing how separate threads eventually weave together to make a single story.

Realistic Fiction            Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD


Standish, Ali. The Ethan I Was Before.  HarperCollins, 2017. 978-0-06-243338-1. 352 p.  $16.99  Gr. 4-8.

Ethan is devastated after the loss of his best friend to a horrific accident he blames himself for.  To give Ethan a fresh start, his parents move the family from Boston to the tiny Florida town where Ethan’s grandfather lives. Ethan soon makes a new friend, the fiesty Coralee, who is battling demons of her own.  Still, the crushing guilt Ethan carries threatens his relationships with everyone and everything he loves.  On top of that, his grandfather and mother are barely speaking, and his brother, who loved their old life, is seething with anger.  Another crisis helps Ethan and his family and friends learn to trust and support each other rather than continue shutting each other out. THOUGHTS:  Despite the serious themes, there is humor and lightness here too, and the writing is first-rate.  Highly recommended for middle school libraries.

Realistic Fiction              Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD


YA Fiction – Loving vs. Virginia; The Cruelty; Frostblood

Powell, Patricia Hruby.  Loving vs. Virginia. Illustrated by Shadra Strickland, Chronicle Books, 2017. 978-1-4521-2590-9. 260 pp. $21.99. Gr. 7 and up.

“Here in Washington my name is Mrs.  Loving. / That is one good thing about Washington, D.C.” (181).  In 1963, at the height of the Civil Rights movement, 24 states had laws making interracial marriage illegal.  In 1958, five years prior, Mildred Jeter, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, who grew up together on Passing Road, Central Point, Caroline County, Virginia, married in Washington D.C.  Upon their return to Caroline County, they were arrested in the middle of the night by the Sheriff.  They were found guilty of miscegenation and sentenced to one year in prison or a suspended sentence for 25 years so long as they left Caroline County and the Commonwealth of Virginia.  They returned to Washington D.C. but did not give up their fight.  For nine years they fought for the freedom to love one another publicly, through marriage, in their home, Caroline County, Virginia.  On June 12, 1967, Richard and Mildred Loving were granted the ability to return home when the United State Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the Lovings.  “Upholding the Virginia laws amounted to ‘legalized prejudice’ and relegated the Negro to second-class citizenship” (232).  The Lovings’ 14th Amendment Right would no longer be denied.  THOUGHTS:  Loving vs. Virginia is one of the most amazing historical fiction/documentary novels/novel-in-verse available for young adults.  It beautifully captures the Lovings’ relationship and the prejudice and discrimination they fought daily while highlighting the love of family and spirit necessary to forge on in a fight that seemed hopeless.  This is a must-have for all high school libraries.

Historical Fiction (Novel-in-Verse/Documentary Novel)     Erin Parkinson, Beaver Area

This is the best historical, documentary novel I’ve read in awhile.  It literally gave me goosebumps as I read about Mildred and Richard Loving, especially when Mildred writes a letter to Attorney General Bobby Kennedy about their situation; all I could think was, “You Rock!”  It’s hard to imagine that interracial marriage was once a felony in almost half of the United States and that the last miscegenation law wasn’t abolished until 2000.  This novel is eye-opening and beautifully written and illustrated.  It shares the story of love overcoming all without being sappy or romantic.  It takes a little known court case that was crucial to Civil Rights and presents it in a very understandable setting: two people just want to be married and live in the home they’ve known all their lives.  The interspersed primary sources are excellent and add just enough for context and connections.  The timeline at the end and the notes add to reader’s understanding.  I read about the film Loving earlier in the year and thought it sounded interesting.  Now, I have to see it.  It’s a shame  the Lovings never lived to see the full impact they made on our society.


Bergstrom, Scott. The Cruelty. Feiwel & Friends, 2017. 978-1-250-10818-0. 384 p. Gr. 9 and up.  

With the roles reversed from the Taken movies, The Cruelty begins by building the backstory of Gwendoyln Bloom’s life with her father before he disappears. Upon her father’s disappearance, though not always believable, Gwendoyln transforms from average high school student to mafia/mob spy infiltrator after her father goes missing. Instead of trusting the authorities, Gwendolyn follows a series of clues left behind by her father. THOUGHTS:  Readers looking for a fast-paced, though not necessarily realistic, action-packed adventure around the world will enjoy The Cruelty. Though the ending is somewhat resolved, it absolutely sets up book two, and readers will anxiously await more of the story.  

Action/Adventure       Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District


Blake, Elly. Frostblood. Little, Brown Books, 2017. 978-0-316-27325-1. 376 p. Gr. 9 and up.

With action, adventure, revenge, and a little bit of romance all set in a fantasy world of frost and fire, Frostblood does not disappoint! Readers will devour this book and won’t be able to wait for book 2, Fireblood, release!  The twists and turns of the story are unexpected, and one cannot easily predict how the story will end. There certainly is something for everyone in this genre-blending YA book!

Fantasy       Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District

Middles School – EOD Soldiers; Victoria Torres

Manning, Matthew K. Art by Carlos Furuzana and Dijo Lima. EOD Soldiers. Capstone, 2017. 978-1-4965-3415-6. 40pp. $19.49 ea. Gr. 4-8.

Enter with the U.S. Army’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal in Afghanistan in this new graphic novel series. In Go Slow, Specialist Rose Campbell is reminded by her protective father to take everything in while being careful throughout the dangers of Afghanistan. In The List, Private Matty Giaconne makes note of experiences in Afghanistan to have answers prepared when he returns and others ask about his service there. He also worries about the disagreements he has had with his wife. Both books show the danger faced and the bravery displayed by those in the EOD. Full color artwork clearly captures the emotion and danger facing our EOD soldiers.  Back matter includes more information about EOD such as schooling or badges, visual questions, and a glossary. THOUGHTS:  This series is excellent for students that love to learn more about the military and those who gravitate towards graphic novels and artwork. The stories will leave an impact on the reader. The books could be included in a lesson as they are not too long, but leave room for discussion and research.

Graphic Novel; War      Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District


Bowe, Julie. Victoria Torres Unfortunately Average. Stone Arch, 2017. 978-1-4965-3800-0. 148p. $19.49 ea. Gr. 4-8.

In Vicka For President!, 6th grade Victoria is inspired to run for class president by her parents, siblings, and closest friends.  At her school, the President is the student receiving the most votes and the person with the second most votes becomes Vice President. Her classmate Annelise is very popular and also is able to spend her parents wealth on tokens and stickers. Henry will also run for president as challenge with a campaign around mud.  Victoria determines her slogan, stump speech, and ways to improve the school with a compost and garden. Will that be enough with all of Annelise’s trinkets and the boys all clamouring for humourous Henry and his campaign of mud?

In So Much Drama, it is time for the big 6th grade Shakespeare play. This year will be Romeo and Juliet. Vicka’s best friend is the director, and Vicka is upset to be cast as Friar Lawrence. Will everything work out in the end?

THOUGHTS: In 2016, the first four books in the series were published. The realistic fiction hooks upper elementary and middle school readers.

Realistic Fiction      Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District

A Few More 2016 Titles…The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart; The Fairy Tale Matchmaker; Lost in Ghostville

DeStefano, Lauren. The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart. Bloomsbury, 2016.  978-1-61963-643-9. $16.99. 208pp. Gr. 4-7.

Marybeth is well respected at the orphanage. She befriends Lionel, a boy misunderstood by others. After winding up at a barn unexpectedly for a night, she tells Lionel that she followed the blue spirit and since then things have been very wierd. Mrs. Mannerd is very worried about Marybeth’s recent behavior. Doctors worry that Marybeth is hurting other students, and this upsets Mrs. Mannerd as she would have loved to have a child like Marybeth before these episodes.  The special doctor visit leads Marybeth to be admitted into a hospital where it will be month before visitors are permitted. How can Lionel save his dear friend?  THOUGHTS: This is a powerful novel filled with heart.  The message that bravery is inside resonates throughout the adventures.  Late in the book readers learn that Lionel’s father killed his mother and that is why he wants to be a fierce animal. The spirit shows that Liza was killed and father suggested mother not know  and the guilt rid the older brother.

Fantasy    Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District



Baker, E.D. The Fairy Tale Matchmaker: The Truest Heart. Bloomsbury, 2016. 978-1-61963-849-5. $16.99. 272pp. Gr. 4-7

Cory needs to participate in the Ogre party that includes a kick boulder game, food-eating contest, flatulence contest, and a three-legged race. This is a diversion for the harassment and sabotage that Cory has received since leaving the Tooth Fairy Guild. While Cory is a cupid, this is kept a secret. Her skills make it hard for her to believe that her mother, Delphinium, who disowned her, should pair with FLEA Officer Deads. Cory seeks advice from her grandfather, also a cupid. Will Cory be able to calm the guilds, help her estranged mother, and embrace her Cupid skills?  THOUGHTS:  E.D. Baker writes whimsical novels and has also influenced Walt Disney’s The Frog Princess. The series should be read in order to build on the continuity of the series.

Fantasy    Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District


Bladek, John. Lost in Ghostville. Stone Arch, 2016. 978-1-4965-3360-9. 205pp. $25.32. Gr. 4-8.

Sixth grader Trey embraces adventure and finding ghosts. He basks in the new excitement that celebrity Rex Rangler adds to their low key town.  Trey even brings his ecto-meter to the girl’s bathroom at school, but this leads to trouble. As a result, Trey’s mother drives him and Vicki to Dino-Barn, but it does not feel right. The old theater owner, Mr. Greensock, is there. Vicki remembers that he died last year.  Through his adventure he is shocked to become friends with Vicki, and she wonders if she can find the ghost of her father who died at war. Trey has his ecto-meter and hopes to find his grandma and free Vicki. He has a showdown with Rex to confront his “ghostnapping.”  This book also includes a glossary.  THOUGHTS:  With well developed characters and adventure, this book is more than a ghost story to cause fear.

Fantasy/Paranormal    Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District

We’re Back…Time for some 2017! Elementary/MS Series Fiction – You Choose; Sleuths of Somerville; Dark Waters

You Choose: Haunted Places. Capstone, 2017. 112pp. $23.99 ea. Gr. 3-7.

Chandler, Matt. Alcatraz. 978-1-5157-2580-0.

Doeden, Matt. The Queen Mary. 978-1-5157-2578-7.

Alcatraz contains 42 choices and 15 endings while The Queen Mary contains 33 choices and 14 endings. The other books in this set are Tower of London and The Winchester Mystery House. A reading of Alcatraz may find readers wanting to learn more about The Warden’s House, “Machine Gun” Kelly, Al Capone, Robert Stroud, “The Birdman,” escape attempts, and tourism of the island.  Topics including the roles in history that boats played, the reported hauntings, and various locations on a ship can be obtained in readings of The Queen Mary.  Throughout the books, primary source photographs and diagrams are included. The epilogue details the locations and significances in history. Following the epilogue readers have a  detailed timeline, a glossary questions to explore, suggestions to read more and Facthound information to continue researching the topic.  THOUGHTS: At our library we already have numerous books from the You Choose series. Students enjoy these books and often ask if there is a reading test to go along the book. Since there are multiple choices and/or possible ending possibilities, I ask the students how the test questions would be answered. They understand the unique reading experience in these books is highly engaging, but not best measured with a test.

Action/Adventure      Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District


Jakubowski,Michele. The Sleuths of Somerville. Stone Arch, 2017. 978-1-4965-3207-7. 144pp. $18.99 ea. Gr. 4-6.

Mick’s Buried Treasure. 978-1-4965-3178-0.

Secrets in Somerville. 978-1-4965-3175-9.

These books are fast paced. In Secrets in Somerville, the main character children yearn for excitement one might experience in a large city.  Jace and Evie walk into the diner as new residents to Somerville and that is unexpected. Even more unusual is that they will be living in the old Potter house. Excitement builds when a resident’s dog, Rex, is missing. The novel Mick’s Buried Treasure begins in a hot September. The town has a resurgence of community pride after connection to Lincoln is unearthed. When the friends overhear the kindness of Mick and his buried treasure, they are off on a quest to solve the mystery first placing clues together.  Jace is going to learn more about his family and the strength of friends.  THOUGHTS:  Mystery fans will gravitate towards this fast paced series. The books contain a glossary in addition to questions for discussion and writing, which can also be used as a teaching tool.

Mystery     Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District


Gilbert, Julie. Dark Waters: Into the Storm A Mermaid’s Journey. Stone Arch, 2017. 978-1-4965-4171-0. $25.99. 155pp. Gr. 5-8.

India Finch didn’t know about her “mer” heritage until spending the summer with her grandfather. Growing up biracial has been difficult for India, but this new information is still difficult for her to process. With the threat of a hurricane, India wants to warn the mer. The Pizza Plus worker is actually the sea witch who has a past with India’s father. While warning the mer of the plan of the sea witch, India saves Evan, her crush, underwater with CPR. There is an epic battle.What happened with her father all of those years ago?  This book also contains full colored artwork, a glossary, and discussion and writing questions. There are currently three other books in the series: Fire and Ice: A Mermaid’s Journey, Neptune’s Trident: A Mermaid’s Journey, and The Sighting: A Mermaid’s Journey.  THOUGHTS:  Currently there are three other books in the series: Fire and Ice: A Mermaid’s Journey, Neptune’s Trident: A Mermaid’s Journey, and The Sighting: A Mermaid’s Journey. Dark Waters is ideal for students that enjoy Donnelly’s Deep Blue series and  Tera Lynn Childs Forgive My Fins.

Fantasy, Action/Adventure     Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District

MS – The Return; The Enemy Above; Rescued

Johnson, Varian. Spirit Animals: Fall of the Beasts: Book 3 The Return. New York: Scholastic, 2016. 978-0545-84207-5. 186 p. Gr. 3-8.

The Greencloaks and their new friends are divided into two groups. The dark Wrym infection continues to get worse for Conor. Meilin struggles to trust Kovo, despite Takoda being helpful. When trying to find the Evertree on boat they struggle until they come across Pirates while sailing the Sulfur Sea. The Pirates are much different from the tales they have heard as they group contains all well groomed female Pirates. The other group has disguised themselves as servants. Abeke is assigned as servant to Kirat, new spirit animal partner with Cabaro, and she thinks that she can truly help Kirat. The bond with Spirit Animals continue to lessen and the book concludes leaving high levels of suspense.  THOUGHTS: This book has endearing moments of others remembering those that they have lost and those that  they look up to. Some characters from other books show up in surprising ways. The compelling series continue with another novel.

Fantasy; Adventure   Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School


Spradlin, Michael P. The Enemy Above: a Novel of World War II. New York: Scholastic, 2016. 978-0-545-85782-6. 232 p. Gr. 4-6.

The year is 1942, and twelve year old Anton often hears artillery in his home of Ukraine. His father joined the Polish army three years ago, and now his 19 year old Uncle Pavel wishes to fight against the Nazi’s. Bubbe (grandmother) tells Anton to hide when they overhear a sound. They eventually escape to a cave. While there Anton befriends Daniel who saw the Nazi’s take his mother and sister, he wonders where God was during that nightmare. It is becoming more dangerous for the adults to explore from the cave at night to locate water. Anton and Daniel are tasked to explore the cave and find water and also a way out. Will they survive and get past Gestapo Colonel Karl Von Duesen who takes delight in rounding up Jews like a hunting sport?  THOUGHTS: The Enemy Above is perfect for fans of survival or historical fiction. Scholastic produced an engaging book trailer:  http://www.scholastic.com/bookfairs/books/book-trailers/enemy-above

Historical Fiction (WWII)    Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School


Schrefer, Eliot. Rescued. New York: Scholastic, 2016. 978-0-545-65503-3. 261 p. Gr. 7-12.

You might think if your pet orangutan accidentally eats your finger that your bond with the pet would shatter. This in not the case for John and his orangatang, Raja, that his father got for him while overseas at work. Growing up together an hour away from Atlanta, the divorce of his parents finds John moving to Oregon with his mother. Raja will stay with his father.  While the plan was for John to regularly visit his father, this did not occur.  Years later when John’s  father has to move, he can no longer keep the orangutan and finds a new home for Raja called “Friendly Land.”  Even after being separated from Raja for years, John has not lost his brotherly bond or ability to sign with Raja. John deeply desires a better life for Raja. John finds himself on a wild car ride and plane trip to return Raja home. John’s mother, a teacher, uses her savings to attend the flight back with John and Raja. Ultimately she allows John to decide if Raja should remain in a safer environment or reenter his natural homeland. Readers will find themselves   considering what they would do if they were in a similar situation and reflect upon what it means to be “rescued.” A question and answer session with the author concludes the book encouraging readers to learn more. Rescued is the third novel in acclaimed Schrefer’s Ape Quartet and the novels can be read in any chosen order.  THOUGHTS: Present information about habitat found in Indonesia and Sumatra can add to discussion leading readers to ponder if there a point that industrialization can go too far. Those who grew up reading Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan (Harper Collins, 2012) will be extra delighted to journey John and Raja.

Realistic Fiction   Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School